Thursday, August 25, 2011

WELL KEPT SECRET

Well Kept Secret

8/25/2011



“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3. According to the Barna Research Online a whopping 85% of the American population claim to be Christian, but out of that grand total only a group of 35 to 42 percent actually claim to be born again. Barna’s study gave way to some very interesting boasts. When the first group was asked why they were staking claim to being Christian the answers were: 1) Because I live in a Christian nation. 2) Because my family is Christian. 3) Because I go to church at least twice a year. But even more interesting was the last figure that the Barna research group posted, that only about 8% of American adults believe that salvation comes by faith in Christ alone, and without any human works. Wow! Throw the Bible out, no one’s reading it anyway.



There are massive, very dark clouds hovering over the landscape of many Christian Churches these days. We should all be painfully aware of the move in many “Christian Organizations” to modify the Bible so it will better fit into their own worldview. It’s amazingly sad today as we watch so many “Christians” ignore or eliminate the Chief Cornerstone, the Originator of their faith, while embracing other religions in an attempt to unify all religious people groups. By eliminating Jesus and His claim of exclusivity (John 14:6), the promoters of universalism are paving the “way” for all religions of earth to reinforce their own claims that the god they worship is precisely the same God we all worship, thus magnifying the erroneous concept that all religions lead to Heaven.



The Barna Research Group, in their attempt to come up with somewhat of a complete figure as to how many people might actually be born again believers in Christ, concluded that as of 2006 about 25 million Americans fell into this category. The population of the United States has, in recent years, surpassed the 300 million mark. I’m not sure what that does to Barna’s 85% Christian population figure, but it seems to me there are a lot of closet Christians in the US. When we read figures such as 85% of all Americans are claiming to be Christians shouldn’t we be seeing a much different America than what we currently have? I don’t know about the rest of you but as I imagine this huge majority of Americans praying 2 Chronicles 7:14 I see God moving His protective hand over American, healing this land once again as America glorifies God as her sovereign Lord. Excuse me, I seem to have traveled to Neverland for an instant.



Satan’s deception and depravity know no bounds, he’s even convinced a huge segment of Americans that they are Christians, yet when questioned about their faith just a small minority profess that they are born again. The larger portion of those interviewed haven’t a clue as to what it means to truly be a Christian. Thus the reason for the massive amount of depravity which is currently sweeping our nation should be of no surprise to the truly faithful.



People believe that simply by admitting they are Christian there will be some automatic reward set up for them to reap. As true Christians know that just isn’t the case. If indeed these folks are actually Christians then their true identity has been a “well kept secret.” The vast majority of these professing Christians treat Christianity as though it were a plague. There seems to be a huge dark locked box somewhere perfectly camouflaged containing the beliefs of these professing Christians which they only bring out and expose to light at Christmas or Easter. How quaint, it’s just their little secret.



Sadly, this attitude of secrecy is far more pervasive even in the born again community than most fully grasp. How many of us who stake claim to Christ keep Him to ourselves only to trot Him out on Sunday mornings during church services? That born again designation is a well kept secret among many of the brethren when it comes to co-workers, some family members, and even many of our friends. I remember a letter I received a couple of years back about a woman who had recently become a Christian only to be told by her “best friend” that she had been a Christian for 30 years. Just another well kept secret.



Here’s the rub, when we take on the name of Christ we become His worldwide ambassadors. I personally can’t conceive of anything that would be more insulting to the King of kings (Jesus the Christ) than for His ambassadors to keep Him hidden, as though they were ashamed of Him. “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:26. I know what you’re thinking; those I’m talking about aren’t even born again so they haven’t really taken on the name of Christ. True, the majority of those mentioned in the survey above aren’t really born again, but what about the other 8% who indeed stated that they are born again? Are we openly professing our faith in Christ, or are we being discrete so as not to offend anyone? Do we have the boldness of Paul or is our Christianity a well kept secret?



Our youngest daughter has placed Christian symbols all over the back of her truck, and anyone who pulls up behind her at a stop light will know immediately she’s a follower of Jesus Christ. She doesn’t keep her faith in Christ a secret, she never has. Our daughter sees following Jesus Christ as a natural lifestyle. While today proclaiming Jesus as Lord is looked upon as a mental imbalance, our daughter sees being born again as the only way to live. We were condemned by family and friends because we kept her out of public school and instead of sending her into the lion’s den we determined that God would be more pleased if we homeschooled her. We turned off our TV when she was 10 years old. Now that she’s 21 she has a faith embedded Christian worldview that other parents only dream about as they watch their children fall into one depravity after another.



Sometimes our Christian lives get so entangled with the world that we begin to lose our perspective on the future. Those of us who take the word of God literally and seriously know that Jesus is due to make an appearance to the faithful very soon. The Bible is so jam packed with prophecy (advance history lessons for the faithful) that there is no possible way apart from shear ignorance to dismiss God’s history lessons as merely colorful exaggerations. Those who have no use for the prophetic nature of the word of God have no real concept of who God is.



When we become forcefully pressured by the world to get all we can while we can, materialistically speaking, that pursuit can overwhelm us to the point that Jesus becomes no more than just a hindrance. When Jesus Christ becomes a mere hindrance to His follower’s, secrecy inevitably ensues and it’s time to place our God in the closet. What’s the old adage? Out of sight out of mind? When Jesus is out of your mind, you too are out of your mind.



I know people who wear Jesus on their cuff when they are around other Christians. That’s when they talk the talk and walk the walk. But when they are confronted by the lost people of the world, their faith in Christ becomes one of the best kept secrets of all time. Are they ashamed, or scared, or are they simply able to turn their Christianity on and off like a water spigot? Jesus said “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15. How can any born again believer in Christ claim to love Jesus yet ignore Him as made evident by their lifestyle. Since the Holy Spirit has been sealed within all born again believers in Christ, denying Christ will become an impossibility. Our Christianity should never be kept secret from anyone, especially the lost folks of this world.



Keeping Jesus secret is akin to denying Him. Our Creator God has a very specific remedy for anyone who accepts Him as Lord, then denies Him before men. “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 10:33. Denying Christ is to grieve the Holy Spirit. “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30. Power is given to every Holy Spirit sealed person alive, the power to admit before the evil of this world that Jesus Christ is Lord. Denying Christ is a simple test as to whether or not a person is actually Holy Spirit sealed.



“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man… Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” Hebrews 2:9, 17-18.When a man, woman, or child for that matter, becomes born again they are no longer their own. They have been bought and paid for with blood, the blood of the Messiah. Since this be the case, should we not also be just as open and positive as we possibly can with all peoples, knowing full well the sacrifice that was made on our behalf?



As we live and walk the Christian walk there is a sacrifice that needs to be considered daily. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Matthew 16:24-25. How many born again believers in Christ are prepared to deny themselves for Christ? Now give this a thought, how many “Christians” that belong to that 85% figure above would be willing to deny themselves for Jesus’ sake? The current and future real number of believers in the United States of America is known only to God. And that exact number will be Raptured very soon. Then those who claimed to be Christians but hadn’t a clue as to what that designation actually means, will stare at the huge void which was just created in front of them. Then they will shake their heads in unbelief of what has just transpired, ultimately they may realize they really never had a clue.



Approximately 25 million people will disappear in the twinkling of an eye from the American scene. What a void that will create. All those still alive who placed their lives in Jesus’ hands, and His alone for salvation, will disappear one day soon. Not just from America but from every corner of the globe. All those who claim the name of Christ without the rebirth from above will soon realize their claim was in vain as their only claim to fame will be pain. Be careful about keeping secrets, especially when it comes to your faith in Christ.



God bless you all,



Ron Graham

twotug@embarqmail.com

Thursday, August 04, 2011

SUFFERING WITH CHRIST

Suffering with Christ

8/04/2011



“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God… The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” Romans 8:14, 16 & 17. The Greek word for suffer is sympaschō and it means to suffer or feel pain together, to suffer evils (troubles, persecutions) in the like manner with another. In this case Paul’s telling us as children of God that we are joint-heirs with Christ if so be we suffer with Him. What kind of suffering? Tribulations, persecutions, distresses, and many will suffer through illnesses, some quite severe.



To suffer with Christ is not very appealing to many Christians today. The world has grabbed hold of many who call themselves Christian which means that any idea of suffering with Christ is rejected as nonsensical. Paul’s words above fall on deaf ears for a huge number of professing Christians. What greater privilege than to suffer with our coming King.



The phrase “if so be” which Paul inserts before the word “suffer” above is self explanatory. He’s giving sort of a “what if” scenario. If indeed we suffer with Christ, then we are heirs with Christ. Not all Christians will suffer with Christ; some professing Christians will only admit to being Christian while in the company of other Christians. They have no intention of letting their secret out in a secular dominated public arena. As Paul points out, our inheritance is dependent on our suffering with Christ. So, those Christians who cloak their Christianity will avoid the persecutions associated with knowing and acknowledging Christ as Lord. Therefore they will not partake of the inheritance freely given “if so be” we suffer with Christ.



Paul knew about suffering; he went through a lot by the time he wrote this letter to his Christian brethren in Rome. “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 1:7. Beloved of God is another way of addressing Christians. The Roman Christians Paul is addressing knew of his many trials and they were fully aware of his sufferings for Christ. He’s trying to explain to them that they too will suffer persecutions if they continue walking with Christ.



“Are they ministers of Christ? …I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;” 2 Corinthians 11:23-26. It’s obvious Paul suffered much in his walk with the Lord. I wonder, in today’s world of modern conveniences and hi-tech living, how many of us who profess to follow Jesus Christ can actually say we suffer with Him.



“if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together”. Romans 8:17b. That statement should make the followers of Jesus Christ sit up and take notice. The Apostle Paul considered Suffering with Christ a privilege. And lest ye forget let me reiterate, your inheritance is dependent on your suffering with Christ.



There are all kinds of suffering, and as Christians we may pass through a period of some suffering and consider it not much more than simply an annoyance. Then again, God may want us to remain in the midst of suffering until He determines an end to it; sometimes that end will result in His taking us home. Again, why? God has His reasons for our sufferings and one of them is pointed out above by Paul. We, as born again believers in Christ, are justified. That means we’ve been given a free gift from God which is that of eternal life through Jesus Christ His Son. That part of salvation is complete. Another way to put it is, “it’s a done deal.” But there’s more, much more. There are rewards that will be handed out by Jesus Christ at the Bema Seat Judgment. This isn’t a judgment like a punishment but a judgment based on our attitude toward the Kingdom of God while here on earth. Some Christians will receive rewards, others won’t. It all depends on what we do here on earth after our justification as we are led by the Holy Spirit of God.



Rewards are given to those whose works were Holy Spirit inspired; their works will endure the flame of perseverance. Those who did things for others as a show of their own piety will see their works burned up like wood, hay, and stubble. “Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” 1 Corinthians 3:13-15.



So, what do we have to look forward to then? I’ll tell you, once justified we can look forward to everlasting life with Christ as our King forever. But there’s something else we look forward to which is apart from that most treasured gift. Just as Paul went about setting up churches and admonishing believers, he did so even though the suffering was intense. He looked forward to the rewards Jesus would hand out after he finished the race. These rewards given out to the faithful are those things to which we should aspire. Did you know that simply longing for Christ’s appearing garners an award?



Many of you write and ask how I’m doing in regards to my health, your concern is much appreciated. I wrote a commentary a while back entitled “Patience and God’s Miracles” in which I hastily stated that my health was greatly improved because of the infusions I’d been receiving. Well, I should have heeded my wife’s advice and held off on that commentary a while longer, at least until I was sure that my exaltation was not premature. Consequently, I must now explain to everyone that the relief I was feeling from this horrible disease after the initial three infusions only lasted about seven days, and they’ve been quite expensive. Actually they haven’t been much help.



I began to wonder why, with the fervent prayers of many of my brethren going up to God from every corner of this planet and those of my family here at home, was I continuing with this disease that had so effectively embedded itself in the bloodstream of my body? I began to do some research of my own. I wanted to give a clear and concise answer to anyone who might enquire of me as to why God allows the suffering of His saints. Of course God gave me the answer I was seeking.



“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:2-4. Sometimes we just need a little reassurance from God of the fact that He knows what He’s doing and we who are suffering numerous trials should count it all joy. Patience is one of the goals of our trials, but there’s more, much more.



“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” James 1:12. The Greek word hypomenō is the equivalent of our English word “endure”, but the Greek word is more precise in its meaning, which is “to remain” - i.e. abide, not recede or flee, to preserve: under misfortunes and trials to hold fast to one's faith in Christ, to bear up bravely and calmly: all ill treatments. We’re to count all suffering, trials, temptations, and persecutions joy, joy knowing we are suffering with Christ.



“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:8. Stephanos is one of two Greek words which means crown, but it’s not a king’s crown which would be diadem in the Greek. Stephanos actually means: a prize such as a victor’s crown. It refers to the eternal blessedness which will be given as a prize to the genuine servants of God and Christ. It's a crown of righteousness, and a crown of glory. Do you love His appearing? This crown is an earned crown and it has nothing to do with our justification (salvation). It’s a reward that will be given to all who love and desire Christ’s appearing. Worldly Christians love the world hence they aren’t looking for Christ to appear any time soon. So their answer to my question would be no.



There are many such rewards which will be handed out at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ. But alas there will be many Christians who receive no such rewards, thus there will be much disappointment for those who cling to the idea of “Well I’m saved and that’s all that matters to me”. Paul describes his life as running a race and to win the race so as to receive the prize. There is more to this Christian walk than just fire insurance, much more.



Trials for the born again Christian can be many. Perhaps they are not exactly like Paul’s but to each one of us they can be distracting, even overwhelming. While passing through these trials it’s important that we not lose sight of our first love, Jesus Christ. Debilitating, formative hurtles can bring us to a point that we may even despair of life itself. Paul despaired of life. “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:” 2 Corinthians 1:8. Then Paul goes on to ensure the Corinthian Church that they have no need to despair. “But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;” 2 Corinthians 1:9-10.



God has given us the power to turn away from sin and from the grip associated with temptation, trials, and tribulations (which are persecutions). Personally, I now count all my trials (illness) as joy. All born again believers in Christ should realize that the suffering which we endure is suffering with Christ. By suffering with Christ, God’s word assures us that we will be “joint-heirs with Christ.”



“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13. God will never let us be tested more than what is common to man. This means God has given us the strength to endure all trials, even the infirmities that the enemy has been able to inflict upon many of us.



In my personal situation concerning the vast amount of trials that have come upon me of late, my faith has not only endured but has been greatly strengthened, and my walk with the Lord is now on a more stable foundation than ever before. God has drawn me closer to Him and our relationship is now much more intimate. That’s why I now count all the suffering I’ve gone through with this disease (Myasthenia Gravis) pure joy.



Most important is how we weather these storms. Do we sit and fret? Do we worry and ponder? Do we complain and lose hope? Do we blame God for our suffering? Or do we overcome in the face of all adversity? “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” Revelation 3:5. I have determined for myself to be an overcomer, to stay in the race and to finish in first place. As Paul so aptly put it “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” 2 Timothy 4:7. I encourage all of you do the same.



God bless you all,



Ron Graham

All scripture is from the KJV and always God breathed